AkzoNobel's speciality chemicals business is investing more than €20m to increase production for its expandable microspheres in order to meet growing global demand for the product.
According to the Dutch materials company, the expansion is expected to complete by the end of 2018 at the company’s plant in Sweden.
Marketed under the brand name Expancel, the material is used in a number of important growth markets, such as food packaging, paints and the automotive industry.
"We are seeing a strong increase in demand for the product and the expansion will ensure our ability to serve our customers globally," said Sylvia Winkel, director of Expancel at AkzoNobel.
Expancel consists of expandable, microscopic spheres comprising a thermoplastic shell encapsulating a gas. When heated, they expand dramatically - up to 60 times in volume - making them suitable for a variety of uses, such as insulation in shoe soles or as filling material.
According to AkzoNobel, the number of applications for microspheres is growing all the time, particularly for products where weight is critical, such as cars and wind turbines.
A niche area, according to Winkel, is wine bottle corks, where the material helps to better preserve the wine. Another growth market is the use of microspheres in porous ceramics, such as for diesel particulate filters in trucks, which lead to lower emissions.